Jockeys' Guild Continues Push on Scale of Weights

A controversial plan to increase the scale of weights for Thoroughbreds racing in California has been delayed until at least Dec. 2. But an attorney for the Jockeys' Guild, which is pushing the proposal, said riders remain determined to see it adopted.

"We want to get to get it done in California," Guild attorney Barry Broad said. "We'd rather deal with it within the industry. But we're going to get it resolved. We could wind up at (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) in litigation, or with a bill in the legislature.

"We've avoided making a graphic public case of this. But those people aren't going to care about what more weight might mean to horses. They aren't going to care about the horse thing. And they aren't going to care about the tradition thing. They don't care about how things have always been done.

"What they are going to care about is an industry that encourages anorexia and bulimia on the part of their employees, that doesn't care if their jockeys are sick on the job."

Broad predicted occupational investigators and legislators would be "shocked and appalled" at the practices used by jockeys--with the support of racetracks--to induce vomiting and to sweat off pounds.

"The industry needs to acknowledge that things are different today," he said. "And one of the biggest changes is that Homo sapiens are bigger."

Nearly the entire Southern California jockey colony turned out for a California Horse Racing Board meeting in August in support of the guild's measure to improve jockey health by increasing the weight scale and adding a minimum body-fat requirement. Action was deferred but it was expected to return for the Oct. 14 meeting.

"Some legitimate issues were raised," Broad said.

Broad said the jockeys sought a delay until at least the next CHRB meeting Dec. 2 to continue discussion on those issues. "We're talking with different folks to see if we can reach a meeting of the minds," he said.

Broad said it would be time to "fish or cut bait" when it is brought to the board again.

The Jockeys' Guild plan would raise the minimum weight of riders to 118 pounds. Jockeys would be required to carry a minimum of 5% body fat. Each horse would additionally carry 10 pounds of riding gear, including the saddle and jockey clothing and equipment, for a total minimum weight in most cases of 128 pounds.

Broad said a study of a national change in the weight scale hasn't materialized, to his knowledge. In mid-August, representatives of the country's three largest track owners–Magna Entertainment Corp., Churchill Downs, Inc., and the New York Racing Association–announced they were forming a work group to make recommendations on the issue.

"If there is such a group, we haven't heard from them," Broad said. "Change in the horse racing industry is difficult."